Digital Essentials: What is the Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO?


If you’re reading this, you probably already know what SEO is. But what about some of the more specific elements? Look into crafting an effective SEO strategy, and you’ll find myriad mentions of both on-page and off-page optimisation.

But what exactly do these terms mean? What’s the difference between the two? What does each consist of? And why is it necessary to do both?

You’ve come to the right place, as we map out the answers to all of your on-site and off-site SEO questions with a series of explanations and suggestions below…

What is On-Page SEO?

It’s fairly self-explanatory. On-page SEO generally refers to optimisations you can do on-site in order to improve your website’s ability to rank for your target keywords.

This is the stuff you have full control over, so it’s down to you or the SEO agency you hire to make your on-page SEO great. Here are the main factors involved:

Tweak your page titles & descriptions

It is best practice to insert your target keyword into the title tags on each of your pages, as well as the meta descriptions. This isn’t as key as it once was, with engaging content being the most important factor. That being said, if you can work your keywords into these naturally, it is still a plus.

Ensure that both are adequately descriptive of the page that they relate to. This may seem obvious, but many fall down on this point.

These titles and descriptions are displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and are crucial components for SEO and general usability.

Hone your headings (H1s)

Your headings (also known as Header1 tags or H1s) will appear larger than your body copy. As such, they are given more weight than even the main text on your page, appearing at the very top.

Google pays attention to these, and it’s a good idea to once again work in your target keywords and give an accurate description of the content.

Write useful page content

This one is a no brainer. Make sure your page content is useful. Online content is all about giving people answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems. Otherwise, what is the point? Why would anyone want to visit your site and stay there? Most importantly, why should Google help you if you’re not on the same page? No pun intended.

However, if you make your content valuable to the reader and easy to read, Google and other search engines will be much happier to point people towards your site through higher rankings.

Pay attention to URL structure

You can go ahead and include keywords in your page URLs wherever possible. However, you should proceed with caution when doing this. Do not indiscriminately change all of your URLs without a second thought. You should avoid changing older URLs until you have a plan in place to redirect to the new ones. An agency such as ourselves are experienced in handling this process.

Try internal linking

Within your website, try to incorporate links between related internal pages on the site. This is helpful to both users and search engines. For example, here’s an internal link directing you towards our SEO services. It’s that simple.

As a whole, great on-page SEO optimisation makes everything much easier for both users and search engines when it comes to navigating, understanding and indexing your webpages.

Improve page load speed

Google’s mission is to help people find what they need, and find it quickly. Optimising your site pages to load as quickly as possible will make your user experience a lot better, and thus much more desirable to Google. In turn, this will help your ability to rank also. There are many ways to achieve this, including something as simple as optimising your images.

Add image alt text

You can edit or add image alt text to all of your images through any content management system (CMS). Use relevant keywords and accurately describe the image and how it relates to your page’s content. This will help when Google crawls your website, as it also looks at your images when doing so.

What is Off-Page SEO?

But what of the other side? Once again, the title is a clear indication, although the disparate elements that make up off-page are a little more sporadic.

This is all about activity that you undertake away from your website that ultimately benefit it from an SEO perspective. This is primarily done through link building. If you can get other strong, authoritative sites to link to you, then your own online standing will gradually benefit, along with your ability to rank for more competitive search terms.

It is good to get a varied backlink profile for your website, and there are a number of metrics that signify a strong sight in this regard, such as: the site’s own backlink profile, quality content, a similar target audience, healthy traffic and more. Regardless, the more linking domains you get the better.

These can be earned naturally through producing fantastic content that other sites want to link to. Alternatively, your content can be outreached to other places, or you can have content produced for the sole purpose of being placed elsewhere with a link back to your site. These are all viable options that we can handle for you.

On-Page Vs Off-Page? No-One Wins!

That’s because the question itself is flawed. It’s not about one or the other. For a truly great SEO strategy, you need to be looking at getting both in order. The best websites are performing to a high standard both on and off page. Neglect either, and your chances of ranking highly will suffer.

However, in terms of the order in which you tackle both, it is advisable that you sort your on-page SEO first. After all, who wants to link to an awful website?

If you take all of the above into account and work on both your on-page and off-page SEO, you stand a much better chance of getting to where you want to be, in Google and beyond. The differences between the two are clear, but neither can be ignored.

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